Joe Biden hopes Vladimir Putin will be more willing to negotiate over Brittney Griner

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to negotiate the WNBA star’s release Britney Griner now that the US midterm elections are over.

Biden made the comment during a press conference Wednesday to discuss the midterm election results.

He added that he was “determined to bring her home” and others.

“My hope is that now that the election is over, Mr. Putin can talk to us and be ready to talk more seriously about a prisoner swap,” Biden said.

Griner is being transferred to a Russian penal colony, but her lawyers do not know where she is or where she is headed, her Russian legal team said earlier Wednesday in Moscow.

The transfer began on Friday, his lawyers said, a day after US Embassy officials visited him and well ahead of the schedule they had planned after Griner’s appeal was denied on October 25. Typically, according to his lawyers, a transfer takes weeks or months. Griner’s attorneys and US officials were unaware she had been moved until Tuesday.

Griner’s family may not know her whereabouts for a while; according to his lawyers, “the notification is given by official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received”.

Russian penal colonies are known to have far harsher conditions than the Moscow prison where Griner has been since she was detained in February.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, released a statement on Tuesday evening, saying, “Our primary concern continues to be the health and well-being of BG. As we navigate this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is, we ask for the support of the public to continue writing letters and expressing their love and care for her.”

Colas said his team remains in “close contact” with the US government and the Richardson Center, a private organization run by Bill Richardson that works to bring American detainees home. The State Department and Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “are using all available resources to determine her whereabouts, ensure her safety and bring her home,” Colas said.

“We are grateful for everyone’s support and hope that as nine months of detention approach, BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be merciful and sent home for the holidays.”

Griner’s last contact with someone outside the prison was on Thursday when officials from the US Embassy were able to visit him. She saw her lawyers for the last time the day before.

His family declined to make a statement Tuesday evening in the United States.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in July. US officials said in May that Griner was wrongfully detained and called her trial and appeal political theater. After an appeals court upheld his conviction two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the ruling was “another failure of justice, compounding the injustice of his detention”.

US officials said they made a “serious” offer to trade for Griner’s freedom in June but have yet to receive what they consider a legitimate counter-offer, which the White House reiterated in a statement Wednesday morning despite what she called further attempts.

“In the weeks that followed, despite the lack of good faith negotiation on the part of the Russians, the U.S. government continued to follow up on this offer and to propose other possible avenues with the Russians through all available channels” , did he declare. “The U.S. government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.”

Griner was arrested at a Moscow region airport on February 17 as she tried to cross into Russia to join her club team in Yekaterinburg.

ESPN’s TJ Quinn contributed to this report.

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